By Norbert Schiller
I rarely know the stories behind the photographs in my vintage collection. When I find a complete photo album, I try to piece the narrative by scrutinizing details that could reveal clues about where and when the photos were taken or information about the subjects’ identity. Many years ago, I bought a box with over one hundred 8 X 10 inch black and white photographs taken sometime in the 1960s. Some of the images showed a beautiful sailboat moored at a harbor somewhere on the Mediterranean, but the majority were of this same boat sailing up the Nile to the temple of Abu Simbel in the very southern part of Egypt. The half dozen passengers who were featured in the photos were obviously affluent Westerners and only two of them were in the photos captured both in the Mediterranean and Egypt.
With no concrete information about this collection, I buried the box back in my archives and forgot about it. Last summer, when I began the painstaking process of scanning my entire archive, I came across the box again. This time, I used a magnifying glass and began searching each individual photo for clues that could shed light on the story behind this elegant sailboat. Of the hundred prints in the collection, there was only one where I could make out the boat’s name, Yankee, written across the stern. When I typed “Yankee, Nile, Sailboat” into Google, the first result that came up was yachtworld.com, a website where boats are traded. I found the Yankee among the boats listed for sale in Connecticut, but unlike all the other vessels on the site, which are merely listed with basic information and a price tag, this one was accompanied with a narrative that recounted the boat’s fascinating story including its historic 1000-mile voyage up the Nile. The text also mentioned a book written by Irving and Electa Johnson about their voyage titled Yankee Sails the Nile, which finally allowed me to piece together this photographic puzzle that had mystified me for years.